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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #1
Posted in puppy section, but believe this would be the more correct place.

5 1/2 old Coop had his first experience with Fireworks (about 1 mi away). He stayed in his bed, alert, so sign of shaking or fear, but watched the reactions from the other dogs (none, they slept!). After the sound was over, he started pacing, so outside, potty. Air was filled with smell of gunpowder & we could hear neighbors leaving for home. He seemed fine. Went inside and a few minutes later he jumped up and started destroying his stuffed toys, not playing, seemed set on tearing them apart. He has not done this before, so know he was upset and not getting a reaction from the other dogs, guess to him seemed right to take it out on his toys.

Would like him to be introduced to gunfire (like fireworks). Can you walk me through the steps we can do to start to desensitise him? July will come soon enough and want him to not fear this sound.

Note: We are at the farm on weekends, so not something we can work on daily in town, but would like him to know the sound of gunfire, possibly start the beginning steps to retrieving (with DH shooting). He has a pretty steady retrieve, but not for any great distance (use a 100 ft lead). Would like to start a program we can follow to make this a fun experience and lessen his apprehension of the sounds (fireworks, gunfire).

Are there any suggestions and a plan we can start for a 5 1/2 mo and 8 mo old??
 

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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #3
Neither, just using my old farm sense. Growing up our farm dogs were taught to hunt and trying to remember what was in their training. Because of not 100% recall, still keep both dogs on lead when retrieving, but using the orange decoys now vs tennis balls we use in town.

Wondered if we are at the point I should visit the local gun range, sit farther back and see what happens, or take them out in the pastures each week and let DH shoot so the sound would become something he understands. Just trying for thought for future training. I have not checked on gun clubs in our area cause I thought the dogs were way too young..are they?

Just trying to set up something that will be possitive for them. Our last golden boy was terrified of guns, fireworks, storms. Really want to start the kids out on a better footing.

This is not heading for competition, both will be pets, but deep country dogs and would like to stop fears from getting root.
 

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I think that the worst thing to do is visit the local gun range although several like to do this Some better ideas:

1) While puppy is eating, go some distance and fire a cap pistol or pop a paper bag. Check dog's reaction. Move a step or two each day or two a little closer to the pup. Don't expect to stand next to pup and get no reaction.

2) When in the field, have someone fire a starter pistol and throw a bumper. I do this at maybe forty yards.

Don't have the puppy in front of you while you fire a shotgun. I have seen this once and it took a while to fix the problem that occurred. You might even create unrepairable damage.

You probably check out one of the available programs such as The Smartwork System by Evan Graham. It is an excellent read.
 

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I started with a cap gun. When Gibby was in a different area of the house I would fire the cap gun and when he came to investigate I would give him a treat. He quickly learned to associate the caps with good things. Then we went outside and started with a 22 with him about 75 ft away. gunfire then call in for a treat, then we went to firing while a bumper was in the air. He learned to associate gunfire with good things. Be aware though that fireworks and gun fire may produce different reactions.
 

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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you both, and understand there are different sounds and associations with each..ie the "fire" with the fireworks and multiple sounds all at once. Just figure (please correct me if I am wrong) that starting the kids now with sounds, might be better than waiting for fears to grow. We are doing well at recall on lead and bringing dummy back, but honestly had not thought about adding "sounds" yet until this was more reliable.

Should I try to wind this into a full package. Heal to spot, throw dummy, shoot, see if we can get the retrieve off lead? Or work on just healing and sitting while gun is fired? We are working on the basics over and over, just starting Kye on off leash heeling, lots of work to do there! Just trying to keep the kids growing, mentally pushing, & know I want them to not be frightened of gunfire (hopefully fireworks too).

I am so sorry if my words are not used correctly as I don't know the correct terms to use. I know fireworks cannot be included in gunfire, but feel one step might be good for the next step.

Thank you for the recommendation by Evan Graham and will see if I can find it. And thank you again for your support and suggestions.
 

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the party's crashing us
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Hi, personally if you are not going to use them as gun dogs or compete, I wouldn't do anything.
Noise-based fears are primarily congenital, IMO, unless for some reason the dog has a traumatic experience. Merely hearing loud noises is not a traumatic experience.
I would do nothing and in the case of distant fireworks or thunder, ignore the dog completely.

For hunting/training I think introducing the gun is rather simple. Puppies hear it from the car as other dogs train from day one. Once the puppy is wild about retrieving you introduce a quiet 209 or similar shot from a starter pistol, have the gunner shoot as the bird is in the air. The puppy immediately will associate the gunfire with birds and all is groovy.

Please also note that not all noises are created equal. There are PLENTY of hunting dogs who are terrified of thunder or fireworks but can be shot over with no problems whatsoever.

Taking them to a gun range is a horrid idea! Talk about overkill.

Also, it's a "bumper" not a decoy (decoy are fake birds that float in the water), and you should use a WHITE one not orange. Dogs are colorblind and cannot differentiate orange from grey, green, brown. So they cannot see it very well when you throw it. Use white instead. Orange is for running blinds (which most sports supply companies are unaware of, they love that orange and people love to buy them, not knowing why in fact the bumpers are orange and the difference it makes).

Best of luck.
 

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Kate
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I was going to say that gunfire itself might not be the same issue as fireworks or thunder.

I've lived within 5 miles of 2 gun ranges almost all my life. The dogs hear the guns popping nonstop some days and it doesn't have the same effect as thunder or fireworks.

And in fact, my Jacks never even noticed the guns until after something traumatic (storm when he was home alone + he panicked and locked himself in a closet and was wedged for 1-2 hours until we got back home) happened. The way his phobia then worked, any loud noise was enough to send him into a panic.

If I were you I would simply make sure he is not home alone when storms, fireworks, or other LOUD events (next door neighbors shooting guns off at midnight).

Don't coddle him, but definitely keep him distracted if you could. Since he goes el destructo when anxious, maybe make sure you have something he can chomp on for those special occasions.
 

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I just re-read your original post. I agree with k-9, if you're not training a gun dog, I wouldn't do anything.
 

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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #10
Anney, we will never compete, but honestly trying to drill in the basics for all round dogs. So far our female is much more prey driven & at 3 mo older is farther along. I will go online and get us some White bumper's! Duh!! I got the orange ones because "I" can see them better! Heck when you are getting old and blind!

Honestly have watched Hanks video he put in the forum of his kids competition and know this would be something we can do out in the boonies in an adapted form and think the dogs would really enjoy.

Guess the question I should be asking is it time to add guns to our outdoors training or is it when we reach a certain level of training to start this? In my math mind it has been one step at a time, try to master then add a small step. Until I have reliable recall and some fairly solid retrieves I hadn't even planned ahead to what is next.

I am hoping Coop as he matures will handle the noise, but prepared that fireworks may always bother him. Good to know that shouldn't put him off gunfire.
 

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Well, I can say mine is perhaps a bit odd...because she is totally fine around gunfire but she gets pretty anxious in loud thunderstorms and fireworks. Although she is fine if you can barely hear them...if they are close and loud and whistling she's upset.

When I started hunt tests I was worried about this (and this was before she developed some anxiety in thunderstorms and fireworks) but I was told by some friends just to bring her out to the training day anyway. They have never had a problem with a dog, especially after the connection of gunfire to bird/bumper was established. Sure enough, mine was fine.
 

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Just thinking out loud here, don't know if this would be wise....

My dogs had no previous exposure to guns. One day I took them field training for the first time and they were really excited to go after the bumpers. Had a person maybe 75 yards out in the field throwing them. After a couple to get them excited and knowing what they were doing, that same person shot a gun right before they threw the bumper. It took twice for them to get it. By the second time the gun shot, my dogs knew that gun shot meant retrieve was coming and they were excited.

So my thought was maybe if you did the same thing, but instead of shooting the gun have a person a distance away set off a firework and then send the dog on a retrieve?
 

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where the tails wag
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I totally agree. I live within 2 miles of 3 Hunt & Gun clubs, one of which literally abuts my property and whose range lights I can see from the dog yard (down a hill). The other 2 also occupy the same woodlands as my home.

My dogs grow up around gunfire and think nothing of it until they learn to retrieve - then they love it :)

But, one of my dogs, Casey, developed a fear of thunder when he was around 4 - he was in my truck, in the White Mountains, when a really nasty storm came through. At 11, he is better but still needs to be near my brother or I if at all possible during storms. He still loves gun fire, but fears thunder storms - he's not overly fond of fireworks either.

ETA: Many of my videos posted have gun fire in the background, and you see my dogs (including Casey) continuing to work :)

I was going to say that gunfire itself might not be the same issue as fireworks or thunder.

I've lived within 5 miles of 2 gun ranges almost all my life. The dogs hear the guns popping nonstop some days and it doesn't have the same effect as thunder or fireworks.

And in fact, my Jacks never even noticed the guns until after something traumatic (storm when he was home alone + he panicked and locked himself in a closet and was wedged for 1-2 hours until we got back home) happened. The way his phobia then worked, any loud noise was enough to send him into a panic.

If I were you I would simply make sure he is not home alone when storms, fireworks, or other LOUD events (next door neighbors shooting guns off at midnight).

Don't coddle him, but definitely keep him distracted if you could. Since he goes el destructo when anxious, maybe make sure you have something he can chomp on for those special occasions.
 

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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #14
Again, thank each of you for your insite. I will cross my fingers when July comes and give special treats, and in the meantime, we will start throwing the dummy from a distance and work on a clean retrieve. Think this is fully in their young age limits and can start the process to a shot going off.

Wish we had a club anywhere around. I have checked and looks like a couple of hours south of us is the closest. Lots of gun ranges, but few hunting clubs. Working towards a goal for us is motivation to keep plugging for my two. Obedience is very important, but reality is we will retire out to an area where forest, deer and wild things abound, not many people. So trying to keep the dogs learning skills that will fit our lifestyle and enjoy doing them. Just hadn't thought about "sounds" yet and since Tx. is so dry, no storms either, so the fireworks were our first. We will work..I promise.
 

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the party's crashing us
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Hi again, also be very careful labeling your dog(s) as anxious during storms or fireworks so quickly. Frankly when I read your description of him during and after the fireworks I didn't think he was anxious at all and the tearing the toy up thing is totally non-related. I think a lot of people EXPECT dogs to be nervous during storms or fireworks so they let the smallest behavioral change give them the green light to pigeon-hole their dog as phobic. This sets up a whole lifetime of expectations, and amplifies any odd behaviors or anxiety the dog may actually have.
I am completely unfazed by fireworks or thunder myself, and *never* have had a storm or firework phobic dog. I think the truly bad cases are congenital but a lot of the minor cases are owner-induced.
From what you've described I really wouldn't worry about any of it, and just ignore the dogs during storms or fireworks. You are right, one step at a time with retrieving.
 

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Kye & Coops Mom
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Discussion Starter #16
You may be right on with this. Because of our previous goldens terror of storms I may be projecting my worry into something unfounded.

Really want the kids to enjoy hunting since husband is an avid bird/deer hunter, and we have the land and ponds to offer them a lot.

Will also start searching for video's or books to get me a schedule to follow. Admit we are working in a more confined arena now with recall and longer retrieves most important. Need to broaden my work but honestly just don't know the next steps so see "help" is in order.

Thank you for your insite and ideas & we will keep working.
 

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I shoot, they fetch.
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I would recommend checking in with the Golden retriever club in your area (Dallas-Ft. Worth Metro Golden Retriever Club), or with an AKC Hunt test/field trial club, or HRC hunt test club in your area. It can be an excellent way to network and meet people actively training Goldens and other retrievers for hunt work. The books and videos can only take you so far, and what really makes the difference, in my experience, is good mentorship.

Lots of pros are in TX for the winter. Paul Kartes (Lakota Retrievers) is doing part of the winter south of Dallas near Leona, and Angie Becker (Tioga Retrievers) is based out of the Aubrey area, north of Dallas. Both are experienced working with Goldens. Not all pros require you to leave your dog with them--you can go day training or take private lessons as well and get that mentorship through the process. Most pros will however only take on so many day training/private lesson clients, as of course their primary responsibility is to their full-time client dogs.

On the book front, a really step-by-step basics book for training a hunting dog is Cherylon Loveland & Clarise Rutherford's Retriever Puppy Training: The Right Start for Hunting. The Dahl's 10-Minute Retriever is also a good starting point, and then of course there are the comprehensive programs that get into the more complex stuff, like Lardy's Total Retriever Training videos and the correlating Retriever Journal article collections, Evan Graham's Smartworks videos and manuals, and the Stawski Fowl Dawgs videos.
 
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